SPRINGFIELD — Senate Democrats Tuesday killed the short-lived Republican push to limit governors and other statewide officeholders to two terms in office.
The proposed consitutional amendment backed by Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, was voted down in a Senate subcommittee.
The proposal needed two votes to advance, but state Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, was the only senator voting in favor of the plan. Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne, D-Belleville, and Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, voted against the amendment.
“If you believe in it, you should practice what you believe,” Clayborne told Radogno, trying unsuccessfully to extract a promise from her that should wouldn’t run for re-election as a symbolic show of support for her concept.
Radogno said she would adhere to whatever voters decide on a separate amendment aiming to limit legislators’ terms, assuming it makes it onto the fall ballot.
The top Senate Republican also explained the underlying philosophy behind term limits applying to the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, secretary of state and state treasurer.
“I think incumbents oftentimes have a vast advantage in terms of media, commanding thousands of employees, that they really are able to entrench themselves in a way even incumbent legislators are not,” Radogno said. “Sometimes, we have really good and qualified people who feel they can’t possibly overcome this advantage of incumbency, and the effect is it discourages people who are well-qualified from running.”
Tuesday marked the final day proposed constitutional amendments originating in the Senate could pass that chamber and move to the House in order to meet the constitutional mandate that they be read in each legislative chamber three times before next Monday.
Radogno and Durkin were trying to dovetail off a voter initiative orchestrated by GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner that seeks, in part, to change the state Constitution to limit legislators to eight years in office.
“The public is clamoring for change. They want new ideas. They want new faces,” Durkin told the Senate panel. “Illinois is in no better position then we were 10 years ago. We’re in worse position, and we need to start at the top.”
As he did with Radogno, Clayborne pressed Durkin on whether he would abide voluntarily with term limits by not running again as leader of the House Republican caucus or seek re-election from his west- and southwest-suburban legislative district — to which the veteran lawmaker responded with a dig at long-serving House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
“I know when my time’s up, and I clearly won’t spend the time my counterpart has in his position,” Durkin told Clayborne.
Madigan has been in the General Assembly since 1971 and has been speaker since 1983, except for two years during the mid-1990s.
In a prepared statement, Rauner condemned Tuesday’s committee vote, which comes on the eve of when he intends to present hundreds of thousands of signatures to the State Board of Elections to get the legislative term-limit initiative on the November ballot.
“Just hours before the signatures of hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans will be filed to demand legisiatlive term limits, Pat Quinn’s allies showed why the people of Illinois are ready to shake up Springfield,” Rauner said. “While Pat Quinn and his allies continue to block term limits in Illinois, I stand squarely with the people in their call for reform and accountability. The people of Illinois deserve the chance to make their voices heard.”